The D-day is finally here as Africa’s greatest cycling championship, Tour du Rwanda, a first class 2.1 UCI category edition starts today, February 24 and will run through until March 3, 2019.
Tour du Rwanda which has entered a new era from a UCI 2.2 category race hence becoming the second African race at a 2.1 UCI level – the other one being Gabon’s La Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
To the delight of the fans, who will be gathering along the roads, including the already famous ascent of the Kigali Wall, the 2019 Tour du Rwanda has attracted 78 riders from 16 teams.
The opening stage with a total 112.5 km from Kigali to Rwamagana and back sets off at Amahoro Stadium at 10am on Sunday.
Riders will start from Amahoro Stadium head to Kisimenti then down to Prince House head into Giporoso to Kabuga and Rwamagana where they will go through Avega Rwamagana before returning back to Kigali.
Upon return, they will head to Sonatubes then to Rwandex, Zion Temple and ascend to Kicukiro Centre to Sonatube round about and then back to Rwandex-Zion Temple before climaxing at Kicukiro Centre.
Riders to watch
Astana is the first WorldTour team to compete in the race. Even if they are only four riders, the gesture is to emphasize, since Astana is the only formation of the World-Tour to have accepted the invitation of the organizers.
The Kazakh team has among its ranks the Colombian Rodrigo Contreras, in excellent shape after the tenth place in the Tour Colombia 2.1 and runner who certainly will not suffer altitude and climbs, but more easily the time zone and the long journey.
Eritrean rider Kudus, who first competed in the race in 2012 and took his first UCI victory, is another rider from Astana to watch. He joined Astana after five years with the Dimension Data and MTN-Qhubeka teams. He started racing with French Pro Continental team Bretagne-Séché Environnement in 2013.
Kudus said on Saturday, “I am very happy to come back here and do it with Astana. Many things have changed since 2012, I came here with the selection of the UCI World Cycling Center and we could not defend ourselves, now I’m back with one of the strongest teams in the world. It is difficult to talk about possible rivals, there are many strong runners: the Dimension Data Team, the Rwandans who have won all the last editions, the French, Eritrea, South Africa … after the first stages we will see who is stronger and who is not,’
Conti and Conti-Pro
In addition to Astana, there are no less than four Continental Pro teams. And if Israel Cycling Academy is relying on Matteo Badilatti, Novo Nordisk will be relying on Javier Megias , winner of a stage last year. On the French side, Direct Energie should play the Rein Taaramae card, while Delko – Marseille will necessarily favor the outgoing winner Joseph Areruya.
Among the non-African Continental teams, some names are also to be remembered, like that of Hernan Aguirre, last year’s winner of the Tour of Qinghai Lake, or Matteo Sobrero, the third ranked of the recent Trofeo Laigueglia.
The African opposition is led by Mekseb Debesay who is part of a very strong Eritrean selection on paper alongside Yacob Debesay who recently won the Tour de l’Espoir and Biniam Hailu who won a stage in last month’s Tropical Amissa Bongo.
If Eritrea is a scarecrow, pay attention also to certain individuals like reigning champion & Tour du Rwanda youngest ever winner Mugisha Samuel who has an ambitious goal of retaining the Tour du Rwanda. Others are Salim Kipkemboi (Kenya), Uwizeye Jean Claude (Rwanda), Team Rwanda and 2014, 2016 champion Valens Ndayisenga, 2015 Tour du Rwanda winner Nsengimana Jean Bosco will be riding for Benediction Excel Energy, Algerian Laggab Azzedine, Taaramae Rein of Direct Energie, last year’s stage 4 winner Rugg Timothy who this time is representing Petro de Luanda, ProTouch’s James Fourie, who was the highest placed South African overall last year and Lozano Riba David from Team Novo Nordisk among others.
The 2019 route will once again feature the mountainous roads in the ‘Country of Thousand Hills,’ with a concentration of climbs coming during the last weekend in the streets of the capital, including three passages of the Wall of Kigali. The earlier stages will also provide plenty of challenge, however, as the race features 19,336 meters of climbing over eight days, including 4,591 and 3,445 during stages 3 and 5. This 11th edition will also see the longest stage in the history of the event during the third day between Huye and Rubavu, with a record distance of 213.1km.
2019 Tour de Rwanda stages:
Stage 1 – Sunday February 24: Kigali-Kigali (112.5 km)
Stage 2 – Monday Februart 25: Kigali-Huye (120.3 km)
Stage 3 – Tuesday February 26: Huye – Rubavu (213.1 km)
Stage 4 – Wednesday February 27: Rubavu – Karongi (103 km)
Stage 5 – Thursday February 28: Karongi – Musanze (138.7 km)
Stage 6 – Friday March 1: Musanze – Nyamata (120.5 km)
Stage 7 – Saturday March 2: Nyamata – Kigali (84.2 km)
Stage 8 – Monday March 3: Kigali – Kigali (66.8 km)